June 17, 2014 - by

The much anticipated Labor Day showdown with Miami is now less than two months away.  That means you can start thinking about getting together the family-favorite tailgating recipes, dusting off the old garnet and gold wardrobe, and preparing for the Saturday tradition of Florida State Football at Doak Campbell Stadium.  

Every football season brings a new air of excitement to Tallahassee.  There is nothing like the summer before a new football season.  We’ve all been there.  The preview magazines hit the shelves in local bookstores, the latest polo shirts and new Nike apparel becomes available, and it is impossible to get your fix of Seminole football until the beginning of the fall.  That nervous feeling sets into your body and those three months before football season seem like an eternity.  

Well we have the solution.  For the next 8 weeks, the Seminoles.com staff will preview every game for the 2009 season–starting with the Florida game and working our way through the schedule leading up to the Miami game on September 7th.   Each week, we will take a look back at memorable moments in Seminole history, give you insight on opponents and returning players, and preview each matchup as the summer progresses.  

The great thing about college football is that no one–not even those TV analysts–has a complete idea of what is going to happen this season.  Sure, most people have a good feeling that Florida State’s offensive line will be one of the best units in the ACC, Dekoda Watson will lead a veteran defense along with Patrick Robinson, and Christian Ponder should have a much better grasp of the offense this season.  But the surprises and nail-biting games of a new season are what make college football the most anticipated sport of the season.  It’s that time of year, Seminole fans.  Are you ready?

By Brandon Mellor, Seminoles.com

No doubt about it, NC State has developed a reputation of being a thorn in the Seminoles’ side the past several years.

But just when it looked like the Florida State football team was in danger of losing its fifth game in eight tries to the Wolfpack last season, a little fourth quarter magic did the trick.

Down four early in the final period of play, FSU rattled off 13-straight points to earn its first back-to-back victory in the series history since 2000.

Wide receiver Bert Reed, who enters the 2009 season as a starter on the outside, nabbed the go-ahead touchdown on a 17-yard pass from Christian Ponder. After Reed’s score put FSU on top, kicker Graham Gano made sure the Seminoles stayed there as he drilled field goals from 44 and 53 yards out with under five minutes to play.

For the game, Ponder connected on 23 of his 35 pass attempts for 254 yards. He was able to spread the ball around as eight different players caught a pass.

On the ground, tailback Antone Smith, who dashed for a 27-yard touchdown early in the third quarter, finished the game in Raleigh, NC with 89 yards rushing.

Last season’s game marked FSU assistant Chuck Amato’s first return to NC State after he guided the program as head coach for seven years. While in charge of the Wolfpack, Amato won 49 contests and reached five bowl games.

And it was during Amato’s tenure when the Wolfpack began to pose a yearly struggle for the Seminoles. Under Amato’s guidance, NC State earned wins over FSU in the 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2006 seasons. The four losses in a seven-year time span was just one less than the five games the Seminoles lost in 20 previous matchups against their rivals from North Carolina.

Overall, SFU leads the series history 20-9 and this season will be looking to earn a third-straight victory in the yearly matchup for the first time since 1997.

By Ryan Pensy, Seminoles.com

Russell Wilson – Quarterback
In 2008, Russell Wilson became the first freshmen quarterback to be named to the Atlantic Coast Conference first team in the league’s 57-year history.  Wilson earned this accolade by being the most accurate passer in both the ACC and the nation, throwing just one interception in 275 attempts.  He enters the 2009 season having completed 249 consecutive passes without an interception and he has an even deeper group of wide receivers this season.  Wilson will have a challenging sophomore season with NC State facing nine opponents who participated in bowls last season.  Many in Raleigh are also waiting to see if Wilson is 100% after suffering a knee injury in the PapaJohns.com Bowl last fall.  If he is ready to go and has similar success to last season, he will be among the top quarterbacks in the nation.         
Willie Young – Defensive End
In 2008, the Wolfpack defense struggled and allowed teams an average of 390 yards per game–last in the ACC.  Fast forward to 2009 and the Wolfpack have a good opportunity to climb out of the cellar for ACC defensive stats.  Willie Young will help immensely.  The senior out of Riviera Beach, FL returns to the Wolfpack looking to top his 6.5 sacks from last year.  Young brings an explosive first step to each game evidenced by his 13 tackles for loss last year.  Where Young’s pressure can help the most is with the Pack secondary, allowing the unit to capitalize off of errant throws made by pressured quarterbacks.  Young played well last season against Florida State and led the team with 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack.  If Young has support on the defensive side of the ball, NC State could be a tough game for most teams this season.      

Offensive Starters Returning:  63% (7 of 11)
Jake Vermiglio (OT), Jerraill McCuller (OT), Ted Larsen (C), Russell Wilson (QB), George Bryan (TE), Jarvis Williams (WR), Owen Spencer (WR)

Defensive Starters Returning:  63% (7 of 11)
Shea McKeen (DE), Willie Young (DE), Alan Michael Cash (DT), Nate Irving (LB), Ray Mchel (LB), DeAndre Morgan (CB), Justin Byers (S)

Starters Lost – 36% (8 of 22)
John Bedics (OG), Meares Green (OG), Anthony Hill (TE), Andre Brown (HB), Keith Willis (DT), Robbie Leonard (LB), J.C. Neal (S), Jeremy Gray (CB)

Wolfpack Breakdown
Head Coach: Tom O’Brien
At NC State: 3rd year, .440 winning percentage
2008 Record: 6-7 / 4-4 ACC/ Tied for 3rd Place
Series Record: 20-9, Florida State
2008 Team Stats Yards NCAA Rank ACC Rank
Total Offense: 329.2 88th 5th
Rushing Offense: 123.2 87th 7th
Passing Offense: 206.0 65th 3rd
Points Per Game: 23.5 80th 7th
Total Defense: 390.9 83rd 12th
Rushing Defense: 142.2 66th 8th
Passing Defense: 248.7 96th 12th
Points Allowed Per Game: 26.3 65th 12th

Returning Stat Leaders

Rushing: Jamelle Eugene (442 yards, 2 TD’s)
Passing: Russell Wilson (1,955 yards, 17 TD’s)
Receiving: Owen Spencer (691 yards, 5 TD’s)
Tackles: Ray Michel (85)
Sacks: Willie Young (6.5)
INT’s: Nate Irving (4)

By Scott Kotick, Seminoles.com

November 20th, 1993: NC State at Florida State

The Seminoles had just played in the “Game of the Century” and fell 31-24 to number two Notre Dame up in South Bend, Ind.  So when Florida State came back to Tallahassee the next week to face NC State, they had something to prove.  

What ensued was a 62-3 domination by the Seminoles, who racked up 553 yards of total offense behind another Heisman Trophy performance by Charlie Ward.  Ward threw for four touchdowns and ran for another in that late November game, and the Seminole defense allowed only three points and 317 yards of total offense.  When the game ended, eight different Florida State players found the end zone in one of the most lopsided defeats the Seminoles have ever handed to the Wolfpack.

It was the perfect way to storm back from the loss to Notre Dame, as the Seminoles won their next game at Florida and then rolled onto the national championship game against Nebraska.    

September 16th, 1995: NC State at Florida State

The number one Seminoles were riding high when the Wolfpack visited Tallahassee, and NC State left feeling like 1993 had happened all over again.  

Except this time, the Seminoles put on an even bigger offensive spectacle for the ages in a 77-17 thrashing of NC State behind 745 of total offense and a historic day from Danny Kanell.  The senior quarterback was nearly perfect, going 28-32 with five touchdowns and no interceptions.  Five different Seminoles found the end zone en route to a school record 11 touchdowns, with Andre Cooper and E.G. Green both eclipsing the 100-yard receiving mark on the afternoon.  

Junior tailback Warrick Dunn also scored three touchdowns for the Seminoles, yet it was his 40-yard touchdown run in the 2nd quarter that showed why he would be one of the best running backs to ever play in both college and the NFL.  Dunn took an inside handoff from Kanell, spun off two tackles near the line of scrimmage, then split two more defenders with his signature quick burst, and found the end zone right in front of the Florida State student section.  

It was one of the many runs that made Warrick Dunn the best tailback to ever play at Florida State.

November 15th, 2003: NC State at Florida State

The Seminoles had just returned from a loss to Clemson, and had something to prove as NC State came to Tallahassee to determine the ACC Championship.  

It was a game of emotional highs and lows for both teams, and an offensive show by quarterbacks Chris Rix and Phillip Rivers.  Rix threw two touchdown passes to Craphonso Thorpe and one to P.K. Sam, and Seminole fans in Doak Campbell Stadium were treated to an amazing 71-yard touchdown run by freshman sensation Lorenzo Booker.  

Yet the game came down to a double-overtime thriller with the ACC Championship on the line.  Things took a turn for the worse when Thorpe went down with a broken leg during the second overtime, but on the very next play, sophomore tailback Leon Washington took a handoff from Rix and trotted 12 yards into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown and a 50-44 win.  

The Seminoles won their 11th ACC Championship during the 2003 season and went on to a record fifth BCS bowl game.

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